Sunday, 13 November 2016

Blood, sweat and tears...and lots of wine - what it's really like to make a cookbook?

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What's it really like to make a cookbook? Exhausting, but oh, so fantastic! Here are revelelations of the gruesome reality behind the scenes!

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The book project is nearing the finish line. That means I soon get to pop open the bottle of Champagne that I've had waiting for this in the fridge. No, not really. Sure, there was a bottle of Champagne specifically reserved for this occasion but trust me, during the process I've drank it and replaced it. A couple of times in fact...

On the book project's own Facebok page (Go like! follow! share!) there's been a chance to follow the process in real time since the beginning, but I suppose a little update is in place here, too. 

Past months have been full of both pride and joy of success as they have been of despair and frustration. Yes, there's been blood, sweat and tears. And not just figuratively. 

A couple of burns (because boiling water and/or slightly careless deep fryer), some new scars (they were right after all - that mandolin really is sharp!) , a few favourite shirts lost for good (because turmeric/ tomato/ cherries/ beetroot. Won't wash off, no matter what...) and a couple of extra kilos. 

Seems like a small price to pay for all the joy though. Or, so it seems at this point, anyway. Oh, how the time gilds memories!

I must have gone through thousands of litres of dish washing liquid (seriously: what kind of an Amish blogger doesn't even have a dish washer?!) and the same goes for wine. I've lugged back home what seems like a ridiculous amount of spices and herbs... and cigarettes (yes, Dad, you read correct).

On the worst (best?) days I've clocked in no less than 5 trips to the shop. First one at 7am. While still in my PJs and Crocks (sorry for that revelation...) which probablyomeans these days I, too, am classified as one of the neighbourhood crazy ladies. Not that we have any shortage of those already as it is...

Though I've been working on book projects of arious description before, this is the first ever book of my own. And totally different genre than the previous ones. I got onboard all excited, but happily oblivious to what would lie ahead.

My publisher's (#1 in the country, mind you!) idea couldn't have been more me, though. Tales of my travels, photos to bring all those beloved places to you, recipes inspired by those places and people behind the dishes I've grown to love.

In some way the book is the final result of a journey I've been on for more than a decade now - perhaps it has always been in my heart; just waiting for the right moment to come out?

Throughout the project I kept up with my other jobs and quickly discovered others haven't got the faintest idea, what it's really like to write a book. Once a client marked, genuinely surprised, how "it sounds like real work!"

Well, yes it does. Because that's exactly what it is.

My days consisted of working on the structure of the book, writing, selecting the photos, editing them, negotiations with my partners, sourcing props for the photos, arrangements for the styling loans and planning the photos.

Then there was sourcing the ingredients for the recipes, cooking, devising and revising the recipes, styling the photos, shooting, editing and then a little bit more writing. 

I've certainly eaten well and at least so far it would seem I can still fit into the same jeans I wore at the beginning of it all. So they might have gone from boyfriend jeans to skinny jeans - who cares!

Some days my kitchen has been full of sighs of happiness when the final result has turned out to be so much better than the original dish it was modelled after. Some days I've really had my ass kicked by misfortune as it's taken me 4 tries to finally figure out where the initial 3 recipes went wrong.

So, I think I have the chutzpah to say I can stand behind every single one of the recipes. Every single one of them.

I'm mternally proud of  them all. Especially my food proof churros and my no-churn, no-boil, no-fuss ice cream and like any self-recspecting mother I'm going to at least claim I have no particular favourites. 

Like any actual mother though, I know that just isn't true.

I'm particularly excited about showcasing the unsung heroes of Israeli and Palestinian cuisines, still so unknown over here.

Maqloobe? Sfiha? Shish Barak? Oh, baby. 

Though happy with the recipes, the real struggle has been the photos. I mean, I'd like to think I've always made and effort with them but now they had to be particularly good. Which, when dealing with a overly neurotic overperformer such as yours truly, meant setting the bar somewhere near the ozone layer. 

Some days I've been cursing the grey skies of rainy days, others I've had to call in help to provide shield from the sun that's been too bright. 

At some point I felt I'd hit a wall and completely lost any faith in my abilities. That's when the memories of the messages I'd received from a couple of photographers I know, offering their services, came haunting back.

"Perhaps I should have taken up on those offers? Perhaps they knew better? Perhaps they were right? Perhaps I'm just not cut out for this?" But you know what? Damn, I think I was, after all. 

In spite of my university degrees and background and all the expectations that come with those I think I'm starting to be ok with the fact I'll never bring peace to Middle East. Or glory to my country in the form of a massive Olympic gold medal haul. Or win Nobel prize for... well, anything. Or accomplish anything genuinely important, like... well, ever. 

This book is quite possibly the biggest achievement of my life so far. Quite possibly it will stay that way. It has been exhausting, but also insanely rewarding and fun. 

As I looked around the table and all the friends and villagers that'd turned up to try out the recipes I was once again reminded what cooking and this book is all about. Coming together for a meal is not just about sharing food - it's about sharing love. 

As I was making dishes I'd not eaten in years, I got a powerful lesson on what an important part of our culture food is. As I tasted those long forgotten flavours, I was instantly transported back to the moments I'd first tasted them: countries so far away; kitchens of people I've met and loved. 

Food connects us to our memories and our histories so strongly it is proven to be the last tie to the original home countries to die among the immigrant communities. 

So... if my book manages to give you what I hope it will: joy and inspiration, that's not actually such a poor achievement after all, right?

Towards the end I managed to pick up the pace again until it hit me. Though my work was coming to an end, the book's journey was only about to begin. For the first time ever I realized that soon it will be ready, out of the printing machines, on the shelves of the book stores around the country and, with any luck, in your hands. 

To be criticized. To be dreaded. To be disappointed at (oh, yes, positive outlook is so one of my fortes!)

What if it gets lost in the constantly flowing stream of cookbooks being pushed out into the world? What if it fails to evoke anyone's interest? What if people hate it?

But,in order to get omelettes, one needs to be ready to break eggs, right? And one should never start what one can't... finish?

Well, I've finished breaking those eggs. Let's see what you'll make of the omelette. 

And this, my friends,  is how it will look like 





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